Date: October 6, 2009
About: Mitch Brogdon - Class of 2009
Quincy teen suffering from malignant melanoma gets trip of lifetime to home of crocodile hunter in Australia
Quincy teen Mitch Brogdon experienced "a whole new world" this summer when he and his family traveled to the Land Down Under, compliments of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
"It was so fun. It was the best thing I've probably ever done," said Brogdon, who turned 18 during his two-week vacation to Australia.
Brogdon was diagnosed in 2007 with malignant melanoma, a serious type of skin cancer affecting growth of pigment cells called melanocytes. He finished treatment in September 2008 but continues to have regular checkups.
When approached by the Make-A-Wish Foundation about being granted the wish of a lifetime, Brogdon shared his wish to travel to Australia and visit the Australia Zoo, home of the late world-famous crocodile hunter, Steve Irwin.
"I'm definitely grateful to them," Brogdon said. "We had a chance to sit down with them in Australia. They're such good people. They obviously have a good heart."
Brogdon, a 2009 Quincy High School graduate and a freshman at John Wood Community College, was joined on the trip by his parents, Dave and Cathy Brogdon, and his 24-year-old sister, Lynn.
They left for Australia on July 25 and returned Aug. 7.
Brogdon said he began watching Steve Irwin on television in the fifth grade and always thought it would be interesting to visit the Australia Zoo.
"I thought, 'Wow, that looks like a magical place to me,' " he said. "It's a place I've always wanted to go. I feel like I completed part of my life."
The family got a behind-the-scenes tour of the zoo, and had a chance to see kangaroos, koalas, Komodo dragons, pythons, saltwater crocodiles and other animals up close.
But the zoo was just a part of Brogdon's dream vacation.
Another major highlight, he said, was snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef.
"The ocean ... seeing the blue colors, it was vibrant blue," he said. "It was like a whole new world underneath there. There was one fish, I can't remember the name of it, it was the size of a human itself and would let you touch it in the water."
While visiting Sea World on Aug. 1, his 18th birthday, Brogdon got a surprise while enjoying a seal show.
"There were a whole bunch of people in the audience. Someone comes out and says: 'Attention, all Australians. We have a special guest from America.' They brought a cake out, and they all sang 'Happy Birthday' to me in the audience," Brogdon said. "I was a little embarrassed, but it was so cool. They're really friendly people."
Brogdon also enjoyed dining at restaurants where he ate food "you definitely can't find anywhere else," including a dish called "a bug."
"It's a type of lobster, " he said. "It was very, very tasty."
Brogdono said the trip also gave his family a chance to get away and not think about cancer. His mom was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after his treatment for melanoma was wrapping up.
"We forgot about it," he said. "We were just a family enjoying a trip."